Hedgehog Mushroom

Family: 
Hydnaceae
Description: 

Irregularly shaped, dull orangish tan cap; spines or "teeth" on the underside. Grows on the ground in mixed woods. July–November. Cap convex, becoming flat with a central depression; orangish tan; texture fairly smooth; margin curves in at first, becoming wavy; flesh is white, bruising ocher. Underside pale yellowish white, bruising ocher; covered with spines or “teeth” that descend the stalk. Stalk straight; pale yellowish white; smooth; often off-center. Spore print white. Spores magnified are round, smooth, colorless. The hedgehog is easy to identify because of the spines or “teeth” on the underside of the cap.

Lookalikes: Chanterelles (Cantharellus spp.) do not have “teeth” on their undersides. Another fungus, Hericium erinaceus or "bearded tooth," is also sometimes called "hedgehog"; although it too has spines (or "teeth"), it looks very different: It is a beardlike whitish mass and grows on wood.

Size: 
Cap width: ½–7 inches; stalk length: 1–4 inches; stalk width: 3⁄8–1¼ inches.
Habitat and conservation: 
Grows scattered or in groups, on the ground in mixed woods.
Distribution in Missouri: 
Statewide.
Status: 
Considered a choice edible mushroom. The hedgehog has a sweet, nutty flavor and a nice, chewy texture. Older specimens may be a bit bitter. Another name for the hedgehog mushroom is “sweet tooth.”
Life cycle: 
This species is mycorrhizal: It exists most of the time as a network of cells (mycelium) connected to tree roots, in a symbiotic relationship with the tree. (Many trees fare poorly without their fungal partners.) When ready to reproduce, the mycelium sends up the mushroom aboveground—this is the reproductive structure. Spores are produced in these structures and are released to begin new mycelia elsewhere. The mycelium of a mushroom can live for decades.
Human connections: 
Humans have eaten mushrooms for millennia, and mushroom hunting is fun and rewarding. When eating a wild mushroom for the first time, it is a good idea to sample only a small amount at first, since some people are simply allergic to chemicals in certain fungi. Make sure they are cooked, too.
Ecosystem connections: 
This is one of the many fungus species that help nourish forest trees through a symbiotic connection with tree roots. The netlike fibers of the fungus multiply the roots' ability for absorbing water and nutrients. In return, the tree shares nutrients with the fungus.